Saturday, February 12, 2011

And in BC...

With the BC Libs up in the polls and the NDP self-imploding as only the NDP can, the BC Liberal leadership is, once again, a prize worth having. And it shows. From all reports, the party's membership has swollen to 90,000 members - that's twice the number of eligible members the Ontario PCs had when Tim Hudak was crowned in 2009.

Now in fairness, the 90,000 includes a cat or two, but that's not really out of the ordinary for a leadership race.

What is out of the ordinary for a leadership race, is today's convention to decide the rules. Yes, one week after the membership cut-off and two weeks before the vote, the party will be deciding whether or not to weight the votes by riding. One way or the other, today's decision will have a huge impact on the race. After all, look at this list of membership numbers by riding at the start of the contest:

Kelowna-Mission: 2506
Maple Ridge-Mission: 1693
Westside-Kelowna: 1609
Cariboo-North: 1430
Delta North: 1352


Vancouver-Mount Pleasant: 56
Esquimalt-Royal Roads: 53
Kootenay West: 44
Port Coquitlam: 43
Vancouver-Hastings: 43

Obviously enough, with 50,000 new members, those numbers will change. But it's not unreasonable to assume the effective vote of some members (or some ridings, depending how you think about it) could increase by a factor of 5 or 10 based on this Saturday's decision. For the record, I do think they should weight all regions equally and, luckily enough, it appears most of the campaigns agree.

All of this makes the contest very difficult to project, but here are the rumoured membership sales for each campaign:

Clark: 20,000-25,000
Falcon: 17,500ish
De Jong: 10,000 to 12,000
Abbott: 8,000ish, maybe less

Now, the media often gets these numbers wrong. Who knows how much support these candidates have among existing members? Who knows what ridings these members fall in? Who knows how many of the above will actually vote?

But it certainly looks like it won't be decided on the first ballot, and it certainly looks like it's between Clark and Falcon. After all, this isn't a delegated convention where you can build momentum between ballots or sway your supporters with an endorsement. In other words, there's no way Abbott or De Jong will be able to "deliver" their votes to another candidate - it really comes down to what the voters themselves think of the front runners.

BC politics being BC politics, I'd expect nothing less than this level of insanity.

UPDATE: Good news - the weighted system is adopted by an overwhelming vote.


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